I have suffered from a slew of mental health problems since a very young age. Getting out of bed, getting excited for the day and living my life was, and still is, a struggle for me quite frequently. However, for a long time, I did not believe that my problems were "big enough" or "bad enough" to seek out professional help, as is the case, unfortunately, with so many people struggling with their mental health. It took me until I felt that everything was entirely helpless, that I realized the importance of having healthy self-care and coping mechanisms and a support system of friends and professionals, even if you initially feel that you struggles are not significant "enough".
I was finally encouraged by those closest to me to see a professional. Unfortunately, accessing professional help wasn't as simple as I had thought it would be. The number of therapists, psychiatrists, counsellors and other professionals working in mental health and wellness that are accessible to people- especially students- are incredibly low compared to the massive need and demand for their services. It takes many way too long to be able to access proper care, even if critical times of need. I faced this struggle, and it was compounded by the fact that I didn't feel that many of the professionals I was finally referred to were sympathetic or understanding of my values and perspective as a queer woman of colour.
My journey through the mental health-care system was a long and tiring one. Even after finding the right people, it took me a long time to find the right treatments and therapies that worked for me. It was an incredibly difficult time in my life: I had built up an expectation in my head that all my problems would be fixed immediately once I mustered up the courage to seek help from professional sources, and was floored with disappointment when I quickly realized how wrong I was. It took me many years of trial and error, not only with treatments, but also with holistic changes in my life before I got to a point where I feel now that the problems with my mental health, although not gone, are manageable.
I am strong. I am stronger than my "bad" days. I am stronger than the stigma that stopped me from accessing care for way too long, and that also hindered my progress even within the care I received from professionals. I work on self-love everyday. Even on days when I just have to stay in bed, I remind myself that I am more than my illnesses.
My relationship with my mental health has been such a journey: one that was difficult, no question, but one that I am proud of.